Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

Looking back

The beginning of a weekly series of articles examining the top talent at Basehor-Linwood during the past 5 years. First up: Baseball…

June 29, 2006

Monday marked my five-year anniversary with the Sentinel.

And I've seen a lot in those five years. From state contenders and state titles to coaching changes and team turmoil, I've covered a lot during my time with the paper.

But above it all -- the greatest accomplishments and most incredible moments -- it has been the athletes that I have written about that have meant the most to me.

I have been surrounded by some great athletes during my days here, and since I have seen class after class come through the halls of Basehor-Linwood High School, I thought it was only right to consider myself somewhat of an authority on BLHS athletics during the last five years.

So with that in mind, I have decided to spend the summer honoring the top athletes I have covered in every sport.

For the next several weeks, I will provide a look at what I like to call my five-year anniversary teams. In some sports, I'll go position by position. In others, I'll just go with the best performers. But by the end of it all, you'll have my opinion on who the top players were during my first five years in town.

Remember, it's only my opinion, and unfortunately I can't include everybody. But hopefully this will be as much fun for you to read as it has been for me to write.

Enough about the background; let's get on with it.

Because it's still baseball season, I thought I'd start with the diamond. So without further ado, here's a look back at Basehor's best in baseball over the last five years.

Catcher -- Darren Marx

Class of 2003

Marx was the first high school catcher I covered and he did nothing to disappoint my thoughts of what a catcher should be. He was as tough as nails, had a rocket arm, and carried a little swagger with him. Offensively, Marx was just as intimidating. Any time he stepped into the box, the outfielders moved back. My best Darren Marx memory came during his junior season. Because of my busy schedule, I had somewhere to be that evening and I needed the Bobcats to make quick work of Perry-Lecompton. They were all set up to spread the Kaws in five innings, but a wild throw by Marx in the top of the fifth allowed Perry to plate three runs. Disappointed that he let me down, Marx told me between innings that he'd make up for it. Sure enough with two on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, Marx blasted a shot over the center field fence for a three-run home run and a 13-3 BLHS victory. As he ran down to first he glanced my way and held up five fingers to indicate that he got me out of there in five innings.

First Base -- Chris Maleta

Class of 2003

Maleta was the Bobcats' quintessential power hitter. He spoke loudly and carried a big stick. And he wasn't afraid to use it. But while he was feared for his ability to hit the longball, Maleta was just as sound at getting base hits. He wasn't just a power hitter, he was a pure hitter with a lot of pop. Chris worked hard on his swing year-round and it paid off, as he became one of the top sluggers in BLHS history. His imposing size made his leadership qualities all the more effective, but Maleta never faked his way through anything. He played the game with fire and intensity and his teammates knew it. My most memorable Maleta moment came when he put his love of the game above his own well-being, stepping into the batter's box during regionals with a broken foot.

Second Base -- Lucas Williamson Class of 2004

Williamson first broke through with the varsity club as a freshman, and for the next four seasons, he was a fixture in the BLHS lineup. He was undoubtedly one of those players that had other teams scratching their heads as to how he could possibly still be in high school. Defensively, Williamson was as fundamental as it got. He made the routine plays with ease and made the tough plays look routine. Offensively, he was a scrappy hitter, with great patience at the plate. He was one of the more quiet athletes I've covered, but he was also one of the purest baseball fans I've ever seen.

Shortstop -- Jeremy Hampton Class of 2003

Hampton was quite possibly one of the most underrated players I've seen in my five years. As a shortstop, he was a monster, gobbling up anything and everything hit his way. At the plate, he was a skilled leadoff hitter on a team that often cashed in on Hampton's ability to get on base. Hampton was the kind of player who led by example, only leading with words when it became absolutely necessary. In addition to being a top-notch ballplayer, Hampton was terrific in the classroom and one of the true good guys in the game.

Third Base -- Josh Ishmael Class of 2005

Ishmael spent most of his early years known as Justin Ishmael's little brother. But when he chose to break out, he did so with a bang. After flirting with the varsity squad for his first couple of seasons at BLHS, Ishmael finally broke through as a junior. Although he ultimately became known as the staff ace his senior year, Ishmael played a lot of third base along the way and was solid at both positions. While his defense was sound, he made his living at the plate. Like so many great BLHS hitters, Ishmael was just as likely to burn an opposing team with a clutch double as he was with a home run. And he launched plenty of both throughout his career.

Left Field -- Derrick Bryan

Class of 2003

Bryan was a jack-of-all-trades for the great Basehor-Linwood team of 2003. While he started in the outfield most of the time, he also became an important piece of the team's pitching puzzle and could even play a little infield if necessary. The reason: Bryan was an incredible athlete. His natural skills benefited him on defense, where he often made instinctive plays in the most crucial situations. They also came in handy at the plate, where it seemed like he delivered a key hit every time up.

Center Field -- Brandon Dye Class of 2003

Like Bryan, Dye succeeded in the BLHS outfield because of his athleticism. But while his natural skills made life easy for him, his fire made it fun. No challenge was too great for Dye, as he always hoped to be the guy at the plate with the game on the line and loved to make a big catch to turn away an opponent's rally. Dye had good speed, a great arm and was fearless in patrolling the outfield.

Right Field -- Joey Barlow

Class of 2002

The list of potential third outfielders was long, but I settled on Barlow for two reasons. First, he survived life as the lone senior on the 2002 team. And secondly, because he played baseball the same way he played football -- all out. Barlow had decent tools for an outfielder, but would have run through a wall before letting a ball drop. That's what landed him on my team. In addition, he provided the team with unusual power from the No. 9 spot in the batting order.

Pitcher -- Jeremy Sheehan

Class of 2003

As far as high school pitchers go, Sheehan was dominant. He had great command of three pitches and used them effectively to keep hitters off balance. But the great thing about Sheehan's arsenal was that he rarely needed anything other than his fastball. Game after game, batter after batter, Sheehan mowed down would-be hitters with raw power and speed. In addition, he carried a swagger on the mound that seemed to say, "I know you won't hit me." That attitude is a must-have for a serious high school pitcher, and more times than not Sheehan was right. Injuries were the only thing that kept him from becoming a serious player at the college level.

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